The fashion industry has a prolific carbon footprint and research suggests it accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, consuming more energy than both aviation and shipping combined, writes David Dillon, a global labelling solutions executive at Loftware.
The size of its carbon footprint is no surprise when you consider the entire lifecycle of a garment, from manufacture and transportation to laundering and eventual disposal into a landfill. There is also water pollution caused by dyeing processes, as well as microfibres that escape into the environment.
The rise of fast fashion over the last two decades has only exacerbated the problem, leading to overproduction and overconsumption. Driven by the rising demand for new lines, business leaders, designers, and manufacturers have opted for cheaper materials with a shorter lifespan. These lower-quality materials make garments easy to dispose, hard to upcycle and less durable.
Sustainability is top of mind for consumers
Apparel companies, conscious of the damaging effects of their industry, are engaged to combat the issue. Since the late 80s, these companies have been integrating environmental practices into their business models. The increased media attention on the global climate crisis has made the public more conscious of their purchasing power and decisions. Generation Z, fuelled by a desire for a more sustainable future, are further driving a shift in the fashion industry towards higher ethical standards and greater transparency. The influence of Gen Z will only continue to grow as the generation’s buying power increases while baby boomers exit the market. Fashion brands, therefore, need to make this a top priority if they are to stay relevant.
As well as emerging fashion companies, the most established brands also recognise the importance and profitability of adopting a more sustainable approach. For example, over the past year, Adidas and Allbirds have partnered to create a running shoe with a carbon emission footprint of 2.94kg – the lowest level ever achieved by either brand. The success of the original launch in December 2021 led to an expanded release in the following spring.
As we approach COP27, all eyes are fixed on how companies are succeeding in transforming last year’s climate pledges into measurable action. Within the fashion world, we are not only seeing a shift towards second-hand and upcycled garments, but also a desire for greater transparency and visibility when it comes to manufacture methods. Consumers are researching the credentials of their favourite brands before committing to a purchase. Since 2015, applications providing sustainable and ethical ratings on these brands, as well as alternative options, have seen great success.
Given this prevailing attitude and the fact that there is already much discussion circulating around the potential introduction of carbon footprint labelling within the food and beverage industry, it would not be a stretch to imagine that the labels on our clothing could provide information or a rating on the environmental impact of the product.
Its widespread implementation would have far-reaching repercussions, not least for apparel and textile producers. Such an initiative has the potential to significantly influence consumer spending habits and a company’s strategy, ultimately encouraging a higher standard of behaviour and consideration for the environmental impact of apparel and textile manufacturing.
Keeping up with ever-evolving regulations
Should this type of carbon labelling become mandatory for the textile and apparel sector, the challenge for manufacturers is to ensure that labels are accurate to remain compliant. In our research, which surveyed 300 IT directors in manufacturing across the US, UK, France, and Germany, 76% of respondents said that more than 10% of their organisation’s goods are labelled incorrectly every year, while more than a quarter in total (26%) reported that more than 25% are mislabelled on an annual basis. This is simply because legacy labelling systems and outdated processes fall short.
Implementing a labelling solution that allows the centralised control of label design and printing throughout the business or across multiple sites can help to reduce mislabelling. Correct labelling also means that extended supply chains can become more sustainable due to eliminating re-labelling, meaning less waste and fewer scrapped supplies. The cloud can also future-proof labeling processes by providing scalability and minimizing dependencies on time consuming and costly IT resources.
There is huge potential to use this type of labelling to tackle one of the
biggest global priorities of our generation, however the journey to making it
happen won’t be smooth if business leaders aren’t willing to embrace
innovation. By adopting a modern cloud-based labelling solution, companies can
gain the flexibility needed to adhere to changing labelling requirements, such
as the proposed carbon label, to be compliant both today and in the future.
By Just Style